Three-letter word

A few days ago, I received a text from my friend Judy asking what my next article was going to be about. I texted back, I’m thinking about sin. Hahaha you know what I mean. I’m thinking of writing about sin not actually doing it hahaha.

In reality, I don’t have to think about doing sin—it just comes naturally. So I figured I might as well write about something I’m an expert at.

I pondered how I would approach the subject since it’s not a topic most people gravitate toward. I needed something catchy, something striking; something that would reel in the reader’s attention. I needed a hook; but my fishing line kept coming up empty. So I threw the topic back in the bait bucket, hoping I’d have more luck later.

Well, later that day I was texting my daughter Angie about a pin I’d seen on the Pinterest website. As I was texting, I noticed that my cellphone’cellphone1s first spelling choice for 7-4-6 (for p-i-n) was actually S-I-N ! Ugh. No telling how many people I’ve left wondering about my Christian walk when I’ve inadvertently texted them, “Have you seen my sin?” No wonder they don’t text back.

Anyway, that unintentional misspelling got me to thinking about the deceitfulness of sin.

If you’ve read my This is me. Unapologetically. page, you already know that my pet peeve is people who profess to be Christians posting statuses, quotes, pictures, memes, and the like that are incompatible with the Christianity they claim to represent. The offending post may come subtly in the form of suggestive innuendo or blatantly in its overt crudeness. Worse yet is the habitual blasphemous use of God’s name. Every time I see it, I ask myself, Do people not realize that every use of “OMG” is taking the Lord’s name in vain? Do they think that by using a letter instead of the full spelling that God will chuckle along with them? Do they not understand that even the most seemingly innocuous sin once again lifts the mallet and strikes the blow that nailed Christ to the cross??

The way I see it there are only two possible explanations: 1.) They are saved but for some reason exhibit an indifference to sin, or 2.) They are not saved and hence are only doing what lost people do. In this article I want to address the first condition: The believer who does not see any inconsistency in what they post and what they profess. Why would this be?

I have a theory.

Although there may be some who are newer Christians and who are simply too young in their faith to have been exposed to much sound biblical teaching, which is certainly understandable and excusable, I believe that many professing Christians have become so accustomed to hearing a watered down version of “sin” that the term has become almost meaningless. Apathy, complacency, or even denial of sin’s reality is the natural result.

Unfortunately, this lukewarm attitude about sin is nothing new.

I can remember back in the early 1970’s when comedian Flip Wilson created two unforgettable roles: Geraldine Jones, a dress-wearing, trash-talking, modern Black woman whose customary justification for her rather—hmmm, how shall I say it?–liberated behavior was “The Devil made me do it!” and Geraldine’s preacher, Reverend Leroy, the con artist minister of the Church of What’s Happening Now. As a rebellious young adult and unbeliever at the time, the catchphrase contributed greatly to my concept of sin as something to be laughed at, something to be blamed on “the Devil,” and something that certainly couldn’t be helped, and the church as declaring a hearty Amen! to the notion. Exactly what I wanted to hear.

And didn’t the Devil think that was just grand: Me believing that I could willfully and habitually sin and still be a “Christian.” Sin? Ha. No biggie. After all, sin is only a three-letter word.

Well, in 1995, by God’s grace alone and not by any religious practices, effort, or personal merit of my own, He delivered me out of my lost condition. In the years since then, I’ve listened to a lot of sermons and I can say unflinchingly that it has become a rare thing to hear a sermon about sin. And even when sin is mentioned, it’s often presented in such an anemic way that it doesn’t evoke even the slightest poke of conviction. (In saying this, I confess my own oft-times pathetic attitude by embracing the lie that my puny little sin isn’t that wicked, hideous monster the Bible’s talking about.) I’ve heard preachers repeat the tedious definitions that routinely spring from pulpits –“Transgressing the law of God.”  “Embracing what God has condemned.”  “Rebellion against God.”– and have responded with a resounding ho-hum. And while all of these definitions are true, they’re not exactly mind transforming or heart convicting if that’s where the message stops. Sure, we can all tick off a laundry list of sins (lying, stealing, adultery, murder, maybe even the Seven Deadly Sins), but Christ died for the sins of the world. Shouldn’t the word do something to us? Shouldn’t it mean more than simply a recitation of forbidden behaviors? Shouldn’t it drive us to our knees in sorrow and repentance? Yes, it should, and would, if we truly grasped the depth of its wickedness.

A while back, I started reading Ralph Venning’s 1669 classic work, Sin: The Plague of Plagues. In contrast to today’s casual, untroubled attitude toward sin, listen to how Venning describes it:

  • exceedingly sinful and wicked
  • most immeasurably spiteful
  • poisonous and pernicious
  • a most hideous, devilish and hellish thing
  • the most wicked, mischievous, virulent, villainous and deadly thing that ever was
  • vile and abominable
  • evil
  • high treason against the Majesty of God
  • As no good can be compared with God for goodness, so no evil can be compared with sin for evil.
  • In short, sin is the dare of God’s justice, the rape of his mercy, the jeer of his patience, the slight of his power, the contempt of his love . . . this ugly thing . . . it is the upbraiding of his providence, the scoff of his promise, the reproach of his wisdom . . . it opposes and exalts itself above all that is called God and above all that God is called, so that it as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing itself as if it were God.
  • Never was a child more like the father than a sinner is like the Devil; sin has the nature, the complexion, the air, the features, the very behavior of the Devil.

I stopped at page 10.

In the mid-1800’s, Charles Spurgeon, in describing the moment he realized that his sin made him guilty before a holy God, expressed the true understanding of the truly heinous nature of sin.

My sins were the scourges that lacerated those blessed shoulders and crowned with thorns those bleeding brows. My sins cried, ‘Crucify Him! Crucify Him!’ and laid the cross upon His gracious shoulders. His being led forth to die is sorrow enough for one eternity, but my having been His murderer is more, infinitely more grief than one poor fountain of tears can express.

That’s a far cry from what you read in most of today’s “tastes great, less filling” Christian bestsellers. And unfortunately, “Christianity lite,” as John MacArthur calls it, has taken on a tangible manifestation in many churches today where the gospel has taken a back seat to fellowship and the serious study of Scripture has been superseded by entertainment. Even the setting can seem more like a multimedia coffee house than a place of serious worship. But these modern “updates,” presumably designed to attract larger numbers, propagate the false belief that if people like us, they’ll like our Jesus. Where is that in the Bible? Scripture tells us to be separated from the world, not to look like the world. Has the gospel message somehow lost its power to attract sinners with its message of deliverance from eternal damnation? Oh, but that kind of talk will only drive people away. Much better to focus on the GOOD news of God’s love, and overlook the BAD news of God’s wrath.

Yet in spite of the trivial, superficial treatment of sin so commonplace today, there’s not a Christian alive who would jump up and down to volunteer if asked to do a hideous, shameful, reprehensible, and thoroughly wicked thing. Yet every time we sin, that’s exactly what we do. Every time we sin, we believe the lie of Satan and call God a liar. That should be a sobering thought that instills fear in the heart of every believer and a deep desire to abolish it from our lives.

So, how do we get rid of it? First and foremost, we have to be able to recognize it. Regular time spent reading God’s Word is the first place to start. If someone tells me to go get the hooberdibbit, I can’t recognize it until I know what it is. Likewise, I can’t be obedient to the commands of God if I don’t know what they are. I am always sobered by the thought of what I would expect to receive if in my prayers I asked God to bless me in proportion to my obedience.

The Bible is clear in identifying the attitudes and behaviors that are evil and those that are godly. It tells us to abstain from every form of evil (1 Thessalonians 5:22), and instead, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things (Philippians 4:8). If we followed those two commands alone, it would transform what we post on facebook.

So. To post or not to post? I only need to ask myself one simple question: Would I want Christ, who died for MY sin, to see this? If the answer is yes, it’s all systems go. But if the answer is no, I’ll find something that will glorify God by exhibiting Christ to a lost and dying world.

 

FOR GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD

THAT HE GAVE HIS ONLY BEGOTTEN SON,

THAT WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM SHOULD NOT PERISH

BUT HAVE EVERLASTING LIFE.

John 3:16

 

Category: Discernment
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One Response
  1. Judy says:

    This is the most convicting post I have read in a long time! You hit the nail on the head when you said ” I confess my own oft-times pathetic attitude by embracing the lie that my puny little sin isn’t that wicked, hideous monster the Bible’s talking about.” Ouch!! The word of God is like a double-edged sword cutting through my heart. It is life-changing/heart altering when I hear my sin crying “CRUCIFY HIM”. Thank you for writing from your heart to my heart and for calling sin what it really is.

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